Blog #10 (Looking for Insurance Coverage; Kirk Gibson)

By Richard J. Decker on October 5, 2011 7:00 AM


Everyone: beginning this week, I will be making two changes to the blog. First, you will be receiving it in this format rather than by complete email, as I have had a lot of distribution issues. Second, you will now be receiving it every other week instead of every week as I do not want to overburden anyone.

I want to thank my colleague, Anthony "Tony" Witteman, for this week's legal portion.

Whether it is personal or business, if you have just been served with a lawsuit seeking damages one of the first things you should do is examine your insurance policies to determine whether there is a "potential" for coverage of the claims asserted in the lawsuit. Even better, for this exercise you may want to utilize the services of an attorney who specializes in representing policy holders so as to maximize the chances that the insurance company will respond positively and promptly.

If you have been named individually in a lawsuit, the first part of this examination should be to determine in what capacity were you sued. As an officer or director of a company for which you work? As a manager of a limited liability company? An employee of your employer? Or simply as the owner of a home where an incident occurred? Depending on how you answer these questions will determine which policy or policies of insurance you might turn to for coverage.

The same exercise should be undertaken if your business has been sued. Was it because of a defective product you manufactured or sold? Has the business been accused of infringing on another's intellectual property? Is the lawsuit brought on behalf of an employee alleging inappropriate conduct by a manager or co-worker? Is it simply a competitor seeking to hinder your advancement with unfounded RICO allegations?

Once your attorney has found a policy that potentially covers the lawsuit, it is critically important that the insurer be notified immediately. The policy's Conditions section will usually specify where the notice is to be sent, and what information the notice should contain. Follow these conditions! The timing is very important because, generally speaking, an insurer is under no obligation to do anything before it has received notice of the lawsuit. Assuming the insurer later agrees or is forced to admit there is coverage, that obligation will have started on the date notice was given.

In almost 25 years of practice, I have been able to find my clients insurance coverage for each of the examples set out above. In many instances, it was only after I asked the client to send me all of their policies that I discovered a particular lawsuit was covered and that the insurer had a duty to defend its insured, my client. Had I not proactively encouraged the client to search for and send me their policies, they never would have had an insurer shoulder some or all of the costs of the litigation in which they found themselves embroiled.

In short, if sued search for insurance coverage as one of your first steps in response to the lawsuit.

Now for the Opening Day memory...

ScanGibson1200-400.jpgBack in the late 1970s, minor league players simply didn't get the media attention they now do. The first thing I heard about Kirk Gibson when he began his career with the Detroit Tigers in 1979 was that he was going to be the next Mickey Mantle. He instantaneously became one of my favorite players. Sparky Anderson, his manager who was responsible for that comparison (and who also will appear in this blog down the road) later said he regretted making that comparison because it put too much pressure on Kirk. Kirk played the majority of his career for the Tigers, but also played for the Dodgers, Pirates and Royals (I suspect hardly anyone remembers he played for the latter two). He was a gamer. He homered twice in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series to help the Tigers beat the San Diego Padres and provided one of if not the most magical moment in Dodgers history when he limped on the field in the bottom of the 9th inning to pinch hit in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series against the heavily favored Oakland A's and hit a game winning home run off of Dennis Eckersley in his only at bat of the entire series. He also won the MVP that year (he deservedly beat out Darryl Strawberry which caused me to win a bet) and changed the entire dynamic of the 1988 Dodgers World Championship team. He currently is the Manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, arguably the surprise team of the 2011 season. Here are his Opening Day memories.

"In the 1982 opener, we were playing Texas. I was the center fielder but Sparky moved me to right. It was a bright sunny day and I lost two, not one but two, balls in the sun. I didn't know how to use the sunglasses yet. One glanced off the side of my head. Obviously, it being Opening Day, there were 50,000 people there. It was a little humiliating - a humbling experience, because I got a few boos.

"In 1982 I came back to Detroit after playing in Los Angeles, Kansas City and Pittsburgh. To come back to Detroit and realize how deeply entrenched my roots were in Detroit, and to be able to have my family, my mom and dad, my wife and kids attend, it made me realize what Opening Days mean to the city of Detroit. We always used to joke how Opening Day was like a holiday, and you know, you really realize that is what it is - that Opening Day IS a holiday. Of all the places I played, Detroit's Opening Day was second to none.

"I also remember hitting two home runs in an Opener against the Red Sox in 1986, one off Bruce Hurst, the other off Sammy Stewart."

See you all next week, Richie

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